Orders of the Day — Misuse of Drugs Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th July 1970.

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Order for Second Reading read.

4.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am glad that the first Bill that I have moved in my new responsibility is this Measure, for two reasons: first, because it deals with a problem of great social importance and considerable urgency. Second, because moving it demonstrates that in dealing with this problem there is no major division of principle between the two sides of the House on party lines. We all have views on the problem, but the Bill I am introducing is virtually identical to that which was introduced by my predecessor in March of this year. There are one or two tiny detailed Amendments to the Schedule dealing with particular drugs. Apart from that, the Bill is identical to the previous one.

The Second Reading of the Bill in March was unopposed. It was given a general welcome by both sides of the House, though substantial points were raised for discussion in Committee. We therefore decided that it was right to reintroduce the Bill, first, because of the general welcome it received previously and, second, because of the importance and urgency of the problems involved.

We reserve the right to introduce Amendments at a later stage when we have had further time to consider the detailed matters involved in this legislation. A number of important points were discussed when the Bill was before the previous Parliament, and to some of these I shall refer during my remarks this afternoon. I do not foresee any great controversy of a party character on any Amendments which we may seek to introduce in due course.

I do not think it would be right for me to rehearse again in detail the arguments which were put before the House as recently as 25th March, but perhaps for the benefit of those hon. Members who have recently joined us, I think the phrase is, I should say a few things about the need for the Bill, and its effects.

Broadly speaking, the main reason why the Bill is necessary is that the present law is unsatisfactory. It is fragmentary. There are many Acts of various kinds dealing with certain aspects of the problem which ought to be brought together in one Measure. The law is also inadequate. For example, the 1933 Act covers only sale or supply. The 1967 Act does not provide for control over the prescribing of all drugs liable to abuse, or reporting all forms of drug dependence. In addition, it is inflexible because, under present law, the Home Secretary cannot move as quickly as he would want to do, and should do, to deal with the rapidly changing picture both of drug availability and habits of addiction.

As the House is aware there are, regrettably, many changes and new developments in this field. All the time new drugs, powerful stimulants and powerful sedatives are being developed, and we must, therefore, be able to act rapidly and respond to the changing circumstances. This is the major justification upon which the Bill was passed when it was introduced in its previous form by my predecessor.

The purposes of the Bill are these: first, for the first time to distinguish sharply between unlawful possession on the one hand, and trafficking on the other, and several additional trafficking offences to take account of the widening range of these activities are created and penalties are made very severe, indeed. I am sure that it is in line with the general feeling of the House that trading in drugs merits the severest punishment, but, nevertheless, possession itself will remain a serious criminal offence.

Second, the Bill gives the Home Secretary powers to counter, without international consultation, any misuse that arises. In particular, he may at any time by Order in Council bring new substances under control and make any regulations he considers necesasry for the control of production, of supply and of possession. Third, it enables the Home Secretary to have powers to stamp out over-prescribing by banning practitioners from prescribing specific controlled drugs if it is established that they have been prescribing irresponsibly. Fourth, it gives the Home Secretary power to demand information about the supply of controlled drugs by any pharmacist or practitioner if it appears to him that in that area there are special social problems caused by the extensive misuse of controlled drugs. Fifth, the Bill provides for the establishment of an Advisory Council and an Expert Committee on the misuse of drugs to assist in the preparation of controls and other counter measures.

As the House will observe, the Bill divides the various drugs into three classes in, on the whole, descending degrees of danger. Those in class A are the most dangerous, the second less dangerous and the third even less so, but all of them, in whichever class they fall, remain dangerous drugs whose possession, use and distribution should be regulated by law. Those are the main provisions of the Bill.

The House having heard the previous Measure put forward with great clarity by my predecessor, I do not think that I should weary hon. Members by rehearsing it all again, but there are one or two things I should like to say before commending the Bill to the House. My first comment is on the criticisms made in the earlier discussions on the Bill before the previous Parliament, either on Second Reading or in Committee. We are considering these very carefully in deciding whether to bring forward Amendments, and if so what Amendments, for the later stages. There are three points in particular to which I should like to refer. The first is the problem of cannabis and barbiturates. I shall say a word about cannabis later on. As the House is aware, barbiturates present a special problem of considerable difficulty, and I look forward very much to the report of the sub-committee of the Advisory Committee under Sir Edward Wayne who will be advising us on how to handle this problem.

The next point—because it is a broader one, it is possibly a little more difficult in terms of legislation—concerns the argument put forward by many of my hon. and right hon. Friends, including particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), that the approach under the Bill is too negative. I see what is meant by that, and I understand very well the feeling behind it, but it is sometimes difficult to be as positive as one would wish in an Act of Parliament. We entirely accept that legislation, in itself, is not enough to deal with this problem. We must go further. We must seek answers to the question why the problem arises on this scale and in this form. We must see that action is taken in the related fields—the social and educational fields, and in further research. I shall consider whether, in the light of the previous discussions, any Amendments should be made in the terms of reference of the Advisory Council to take account of the need for a wider approach to the whole problem.

Then there is the problem of over-prescribing, which seems to be a very difficult and important one. It is clearly important, because I understand that the amounts involved in over-prescribing are serious. The problem is a substantial one and we must deal with it. On the other hand, the issues involved in restricting prescribing by doctors are themselves very serious ones. I understand that in the previous Parliament there was a wide interest in the possibility that the General Medical Council might take responsibility in this matter. I am happy to tell the House that I have had a letter from the President of the Council offering further talks with the Government on this subject, and I shall be happy to talk with the Council and the other professional bodies involved in these matters. I shall certainly lay the results before the House at the appropriate time.

These are the main issues. The House is pretty familiar with the Bill and with its purposes, and I have referred to the main points that I think we ought to deal with in considering Amendments at a later stage. Before I conclude I want to say a few things about my attitude to the problem of the misuse of drugs, which I come to quite fresh. I shall certainly look very carefully at all the reports of the Advisory Committee on cannabis, rehabilitation, the powers of search—a very important point—amphetamines, and L.S.D. I shall study those reports very closely.

But the basic problem is how far the community is entitled to interfere with the individual in the conduct of his own life. It is the old problem of freedom under the law. This is being made all the more urgent by the way in which the whole quality and background of our lives together are being affected by the astounding speed of scientific development. This is a favourite theme of mine and I shall not weary the House for long with it. The pace of scientific discovery is bringing new dangers to mankind of a character which is not generally recognised. It is not merely the more obvious ones—the dangers of the atomic bomb or the pollution of the atmosphere—but the enormous discoveries of science in influencing men's minds and human behaviour, either through medicine or, in some cases, through surgery.

These growing possibilities will certainly call for more control, just as control over the environmental pollution problem will be required. But if more controls are needed they must be even more stringently justified if they are to be accepted. We must also recognise and accept that any controls that we impose must be fully appreciated by those concerned. In this connection the previous Home Secretary often stressed the importance of the generation gap and the need to ensure that we, in our generation, are fully understood, in terms of our motives and actions, by the younger generation that is succeeding us.

There are two things on which everyone can readily agree—first, that illicit trafficking in drugs should be dealt with with extreme severity, as the Bill provides, and, secondly, that the use of hard drugs is an appalling phenomenon of our society and we must set our faces completely against it.

But there remains a certain area of doubt for those who both believe in individual freedom and that the spreading use of drugs is dangerous to a high degree to individuals and to society as a whole. Freedom is in issue. It is deplorable to see people drinking themselves into cirrhosis or smoking themselves into lung cancer, but nobody proposes that either activity should be prohibited by law. There is an ethical consideration here, and it is relevant to the problem of cannabis.

I should like to give an example of what I mean by referring to a meeting that I addressed some while ago at the London School of Economics. It was a meeting of the Conservative Association, which meant that many of those present were far from conservative. One young man said to me, "You like whisky. I like pot. Why can you have whisky while I cannot smoke pot? They are both mildly addictive, but they both do little harm when taken in small quantities. They both do great harm when taken in large quantities. Why is one prohibited and the other allowed? "The answer to that question we must get across to both sides with the greatest clarity.

I am convinced that we are right to maintain the attitude, in the Bill, that cannabis should be treated as a dangerous drug. To my mind the risks of doing otherwise are far too great, whatever the truth is about progress from one drug to another. I understand that more than 90 per cent. of those addicted to hard drugs started on cannabis. That is a fact that we cannot ignore. In any case, cannabis is not necessary. It seems a wholly unnecessary risk to take to treat this substance as anything other than a dangerous drug. But we must also recognise—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford said in the previous Parliament—that we have not made our story about cannabis credible. We have only ourselves to blame for the fact that the public, and especially the younger members of the public, do not find this story a convincing one. I hope that together we may find the means of making the story a really convincing one.

That is surely one reason why the Bill is only part of the whole problem of drugs, and how to deal with them. We are dealing with a symptom of a deeply troubled society. The law, and the full rigour of the law, where necessary, is essential, but repression alone clearly is not enough. We must identify the reasons and causes for the phenomenon. In a time like this, when life should be so full of opportunities and challenges and possibility, what is the emptiness that draws so many young people towards the use of these drugs, substances and strange practices? It is not only the challenge of doing something illegal. Making something illegal sometimes causes it to be more attractive to some people. It is not only a question of smoking in the shrubbery. There are deeper causes in our modern society which draws young people to this sort of consolation. I hope that this House, in the course of these discussions, can make some contribution to identifying these causes, so that we may be able to cure the problem.

That is the background against which I commend the Bill to the House. It is virtually identical with the Bill introduced in the previous Parliament. It is necessary because of the fragmented and unsatisfactory state of the law at present. Its purposes are clear—they are to deal with known abuses, particularly trafficking and over-prescribing. We shall consider deeply the question of any Amendments on the points that I have mentioned before the next stage of the Bill is reached. Above all, we recognise that this is a grievous social problem to which, by the Bill, we are making a contribution, but only a minor part of the total contribution required.

4.39 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

The House will not be surprised if I say that I agree with what the Home Secretary said. Indeed, as he said, with minor alteration he has taken over the Bill, the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill—the Long Title, the Explanatory Memorandum, the Preamble, the Clauses, the Schedule, the offences and the penalties. The only difference that I can see is the names on the back, and if he had asked me, I should have been willing to have them remain the same.

This is a little symptomatic of the Government. They have taken over a piece of legislation from the previous Administration and introduced it as one of their earliest Measures. We are having a full day's debate on it; I do not quarrel with that, although we had a full day on it a short while ago. This confirms the impression which the country is getting that the Government are coasting along—waiting for problems to come and hit them while they are coasting.

The problems will certainly arrive, unless there is more evidence of mobility on the part of the Government. I understand this policy of masterly inactivity, but I hope that they will give some impression of being in control of events from time to time, instead of just reacting to them. However, it is not for me to complain on this occasion that they should have chosen, as one of their first actions, when they had no legislation of their own, to produce, with modest praise to their predecessors, a Bill of the Labour Government. We shall certainly facilitate its passage on to the Statute Book.

I listened to what the right hon. Gentleman said about barbiturates and he is wise to await the report which he will get. This will be one of the most difficult tasks to handle in this matter. The legislation is not enough; of course he is right there. I have said so, but one has to go on saying so, as I am sure he has discovered, both in order to get other things than legislation done and also to impress the liberal Press, who other wise will say that he made a very bad speech. He is right about over-prescribing, of course: this is certainly one of the difficulties.

I was worried by what the Home Secretary said about cannabis and I wonder whether he is right about people's attitudes when he gives approval to what the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said in the last Parliament—that we have not made our story credible about cannabis to the younger members of the public. I did not believe it when the right hon. Gentleman said it, and I do not believe it now. I advise the Home Secretary to think carefully about this.

It is not my experience that the younger members of the public are in favour of smoking "pot". It is my experience that a small and very articulate group, who have managed to corner the Press and a great deal of the public media, express themselves in terms of a generation gap, and say that we do not understand, but the plain truth is, as far as I know it and as far as the most recent market research that I have seen has gone, that over 90 per cent. of young people are in favour of stringent penalties against those who smoke "pot". I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not use his office to give credence to a view which I believe is misplaced, so far as the overwhelming majority of young people are concerned.

I know the groups who say, "Smoking cannabis has a lot to be said for it. Why should you interfere with our rights as individuals?". That is not the whole question, but I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to accept, without further tests, the view that young people as a whole take this view. I have no evidence for this indeed, my evidence is in the opposite sense.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford) rose

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

So I am assisting the right hon. Gentleman. Is he not rather misrepresenting the views of my right hon. Friends? Neither of them said that he thought that the younger generation was in favour of legalising cannabis. What they said was that the younger generation were extremely sceptical and cynical about the issue and the part that the law can play. That is a very different point.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

Maybe it is a different point, but my observations remain the same. That is to say, I do not believe that this is true of the majority of young people. I believe that the overwhelming majority take the view which I have already expressed and that the evidence, such as it is, which exists bears that out. I have used the phrase that the Home Secretary used—that we have not made our story about cannabis credible to the younger members of the public. I think that that was the phrase. I do not accept that: I think that it is entirely untrue.

I believe that the younger members of the public accept the view which has been expressed in this House, namely, that the smoking of "pot" is a dangerous habit, that it can lead to addictive drugs and that it should be firmly discouraged and put down. That is the purpose of the Bill, and I hope that the Home Secretary will not, even unintentionally, begin to undermine that by any other kind of expression—

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I said absolutely clearly that I am convinced that we are right to treat cannabis under the Bill as a dangerous drug.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

I fully understand. I was perhaps being carried a little further by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) who I know takes a different view.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

"Takes a different view"? Would the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

No. The hon. Gentleman is a television pundit, but in this House he can sit down and listen to other people for more than a minute. I had to put up with the hon. Member when I was Minister: I do not have to suffer him any longer.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Shadow Secretary of State, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Treasurer, Labour Party, Shadow Home Secretary

Maybe if we get back to power I shall have to suffer him, but not until then. In the meantime, he can interrupt his own Front Bench.

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for supplying us with the notes on the Clauses, which we had seen before, but which, for the most part, I had either not read or forgotten. They will be of assistance in our deliberations. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) will be winding up the debate. I ask the Home Secretary and the Minister of State to forgive me for not being here at the end of the debate, because I have to leave for Cardiff rather later. I am sure that the hon. Member for Chelmsford will not object to that.

I have said all I want to say about the principle of the Bill. What concerned me when I was at the Home Office was the changing nature and the speed of the spread of addiction, the devastating effects of the use of some of these drugs, into which people could so easily be attracted, and the fear of the unknown among those of us of an older generation. One of the most important powers in the Bill is the power to amend the Schedule. The penalties for pushers, in my view, are right, and I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman does not intend to alter them.

The basic need is to try to disentangle the two types of drugs—these which are needed for medical purposes, where we must rely on the medical profession to exercise a sense of responsibility, and those which are not so needed. In the second case, we must reduce the availability of those drugs so far as we can and make it more difficult to get them. This is the root of the problem

Dr. Winstanley, the former Member for Cheadle, made an excellent speech on this matter during debates on the previous Bill. If the Home Secretary, among all the manifold responsibilities which have fallen on him, can spare the time, I suggest that he reads it. The speech, made from Dr. Winstanley's medical knowledge, was a valuable and helpful speech to me and I commend it to the right hon. Gentleman. What he told us was what was known, but he put it simply and clearly. He drew a distinction between the various types of medical and non-medical drugs. He thought that the amphetamines, which had no therapeutic necessity, were the most dangerous drugs in existence in that way and that they could be most easily dealt with. His contribution on that occasion makes me regret that he is not here to take part in this debate—and there is no party point in that remark.

I approve of the Bill, and so do the Opposition. If there are any alterations to be made in Committee, we shall look at them in a non-party sense. We might well introduce some Amendments ourselves. Indeed, I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan had some doubts about some points when he was in the Government. Now that he has the freedom of Opposition, perhaps he will raise them. I do not know whether I will support him or not; we shall have to wait and see what he says.

Lastly, the Home Secretary was asking some rather dangerous questions about the symptoms of sickness in our society. We know that he is a thoughtful man who understands these questions and thinks intelligently about them, but I beg him not to carry this research into sickness in our society too far. He might find that it began to challenge the whole of his political philosophy. What would happen then, when he decided to join the Labour Party?

4.50 p.m.

Photo of Dr Thomas Stuttaford Dr Thomas Stuttaford , Norwich South

I think myself fortunate in having the opportunity to make my maiden speech on a Bill which has all-party backing and which is, therefore, removed from the field of political controversy. I hope that the House will extend to me its usual tolerance and indulgence on these occasions, particularly as I happened to be born in North Norfolk, where, so we heard today from the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars), we are a very simple lot.

I ask the indulgence of the House because I shall speak from my own experience as a general practitioner in my constituency. I represent Norwich, South, part of a very proud and fine city which has managed to preserve much of its mediaeval and Georgian splendours from the onslaughts of the Victorian builder and the twentieth-century bulldozer. It has returned two Members continuously since 1272. I take the place of Mr. Christopher Norwood, whose independence of thought was admired in Norwich by people of very different political views and backgrounds.

Any city such as Norwich, which, with its fringe areas, has a population approaching 200,000, is no longer the tight little Georgian group it was 150 years ago. Norwich is an expanding city; it has become an industrial city and a commercial city. As it expands, the centre of the city becomes destroyed, and the people are thrown out to the outskirts. In a population of this size, there will be some who cannot cope with change, who cannot cope with the changes in society and the changes in their urban environment. Their family life will be split, and they will lose their extended family of grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.

It is from these people who cannot cope and who have an inadequate personality that the great pool of drug addicts is found. Such people are easy prey to any professional pusher or to any friend who will casually offer his spare heroin or physeptone. It is not yet a big problem proportionately—we must all bear that in mind—but, though comparatively small, it always has the menace of possible explosion, as it has exploded in America, into a problem of grave proportions.

Our regulations and laws in the past have been unable to cope with this problem. They have eased the situation in respect of one drug only to create a new situation. As the previous Home Secretary said, the situation changes constantly, day by day, and week by week. I was surprised when I read his speech in the last Parliament to learn that he had known about the dangers of barbiturates only in recent months. In general practice we have known about them for the last couple of years, ever since Methedrine became difficult to come by.

Similarly, Mandrax seems to have taken people by surprise. Mandrax has not been mentioned yet today. It is a very intoxicating sleeping pill; one becomes very "high", very intoxicated, on it. This pill has been marketed for four, five or six years, and it immediately started to fall into the wrong hands. Recently, there has been a great increase in its vogue. I have seen people trying to inject Mandrax; they suffer a terrible infected arm. I have many patients who have taken it with alcohol or instead of alcohol as an intoxicating agent.

The dangers of Mandrax, both social and pharmacological, have been known for several years, and last year the Poisons Board took the unusual step of recommending its consideration by the Home Office because of its social implications. But it has taken a year up to now for the danger to be officially recognised by the Home Office.

That is an illustration of the need for this Bill, with its flexibility to meet a constantly changing situation. The scene is not the same from one week to the next. Only with a flexible Bill of this kind can we hope to start putting our laws in line with the situation.

I was surprised, too, when I read the last debate, to learn that the increase in LSD taking, "acid" taking, was not known among the general public or among the generality of right hon. and hon. Members. I find this extraordinary. Acid taking in a provincial city like Norwich has increased 100-fold, probably, in the last 18 months. I was reading last night an as-yet-unpublished paper by the man who is probably regarded as the most eminent in the field of addiction, a consultant psychiatrist. His paper extends to 8,000 words and devotes only 110 to the taking of acid. He gave his figure of the likely incidence in the population as one to five per 100,000. This shows not only how out of touch hon. Members may be but how out of touch one of the hierarchy in medicine is, for, just after reading that paper, I went to the Library and saw in our local newspaper that there were five people yesterday on acid charges in various courts in Norwich. That is five people out of 200,000, yet the greatest expert on addiction in this country feels that in any year there are only one to five per 100,000. He could come to my surgery and, within a month, we could find him his five. I could take him round various clubs, coffee bars and ordinary bars in Norwich and find ten or 20 times that in an evening.

Acid taking is a big menace. In my view, it is the most dangerous drug we have, for two reasons: first, because it produces either temporary or permanent insanity, with schizophrenic breakdown, and second, because we might here have a causal relationship with the taking of "pot". The relationship between "pot" taking and heroin is a relationship within the social environment. It is none the less dangerous for that. I feel that the argument put forward by some experts about the similarity between the molecule of TCH, the derivative of cannabis, and the molecule of morphia is neither here nor there. Clinically, I do not think that it has any significance. But there may well be a relationship between hash taking and LSD taking.

Hash is a mild hallucinatory drug—which alcohol really is not—and LSD is a major hallucinatory drug. It seems reasonable to suppose not only that the same people move in the same circle but that there may well be a direct relationship.

Having given my unstinting approval to the Bill, I wish slightly to criticise its emphasis, and the emphasis in the debate last time, as well as, perhaps, today, on the hazard of the over-prescribing doctor. This problem could easily be solved if it were illegal for any doctor to charge for his prescription of various drugs. It is always said by social workers that the doctors who treat addicts are either saints or sinners. The sinners make large sums of money out of it. The saints, for a penny a day, undergo the worst ordeal by patient which any doctor can have. They do it for a penny a day, the capitation fee.

A doctor with a dozen or a couple of dozen addicts on his list suffers in every possible way. His sleep will be disturbed night after night. His surgeries will be disturbed. He will lose the confidence of his colleagues because his patients will invariably be a nuisance wherever they go. There is no advantage to him at all. He is doing social work, and he is not being paid for it. These people are not, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) has said, grey sheep. They are taking on a job because in a provincial city there is at the moment no treatment for the drug addict.

The old system was that they should be treated in out-patients' departments, or that in a big enough city there should be a special centre. That does not work, because the out-patients' department closes, but drug addiction is a 24-hoursa-day, seven-days-a-week matter. Therefore, at night and at weekends addicts are thrown back on to the general practitioner service. There are very few general practitioners who will take on that responsibility, and there is a danger that, after the Bill is passed, those very few will also stop. It is bad enough to have ordeal by patient; it would be worse to lose one's livelihood.

We must also be a little careful about sharp differentiation between the pusher and the taker. In my experience, the two often overlap. When the clever racketeer, the man at the top, is eventually caught by the police, he will probably have a couple of purple hearts on him and will be sentenced to three months' imprisonment at the magistrates' court. The next man down, the smalltime crook, the small-time housebreaker who can no longer climb over the back walls, will be found, when caught, with the "pot" all neatly labelled and wrapped up in silver paper ready for distribution, and he will get five years. The last group consists of the men who move in the sub-culture of the junkie and just share his prescription. This is where we come to the question of over-prescription, and it is where we may be able to do some good.

To quote the social workers, the saints amongst the junkie doctors do their best to avoid over-prescription at all times. It is very difficult, because one can never tell the dose someone will need. Where over-prescription is dangerous today is in the over-prescription of a drug which is practically becoming replaceable—the barbiturates. This is the new menace coming up behind LSD. It is a menace which is reappearing, because it was a menace about 10 years ago.

Barbiturate over-prescription occurs constantly. It is done not just by a few grey or black doctors but by a great many doctors in all walks of life and all types of practice. They prescribe barbiturates as tranquillisers, though there are much better tranquillisers, and as sleeping pills, though there are much better forms of getting a night's rest. The problem of insomnia can be gone into much more carefully, and the doctor can use a much more narrow-spectrum drug to achieve the night's rest. But that is not always done, and the easy way out is to give someone sodium amytal gr.3. The general practitioner gives 100 so that the patient does not come back for a month. This is the sort of over-prescription we must get rid of. Barbiturate over-prescription is the big problem coming up in the future. We must have closer and tighter control right across the spectrum of doctors—not just a few junkie doctors.

I have not mentioned the constructive points which we need and which must be put forward. One is education. There must be more and more education on the hazards of drug addiction, particularly as regards acid. Second, we must remember that we need improved social conditions. Where there are poor social conditions there is addiction. Fifty-two per cent. of hard-drug addicts have been deprived of one or other true parent for more than two years, and 34 per cent. have been deprived of both parents for two or more years. When talking to them, we always hear the same story of the shattered home, the absent father.

I have just one other small point. We have included a large number of cough medicines in the Bill. I do not know whether The House realises that any prep-school matron or old people's home warden who hands out cough medicine in future will be liable to seven years in gaol, and so will the headmaster.

5.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow West

Like the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford), I, too, ask the indulgence of the House for my maiden speech. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not immediately discuss what he just said.

The occasion of one's maiden speech in this House is obviously symbolic. I am not sure what is symbolises—perhaps the transition from boyhood to manhood, a sort of political key of the door. Perhaps it marks the transition from amateur to professional status as a politician. Perhaps, even, it marks a loss of political innocence. Whatever it symbolises, it is certainly a nerve-wracking tribal initiation ceremony which still awaits record by one of our latter-day sociologists. I, like other new Members, find it something of an ordeal.

I represent Walthamstow, West, and do so with pride and humility. I do so with pride, because the people of my constituency are the most friendly and heartwarming that I could wish to meet and represent. They have made me, a foreigner from a few miles away, extremely welcome. They also have a long record of devoted public service, a record of electing progressive local authorities and representatives to speak up for them in the assemblies of the nation. This, too, makes me feel extremely proud.

At the same time, I feel very humble about the rôle I have undertaken, because in Walthamstow, West there is a long tradition of very fine constituency Members of Parliament, some of whom in recent years have given their lives to the service of their constituents, dying in office. If I merely mention Mr. Ted Redhead, hon. Members who knew him will know exactly what I mean. He set a standard of conduct as constituency Member which I shall find it very difficult to live up to. My immediate predecessor, Mr. Fred Silvester, did his best, as I shall do my best, to establish the same sort of reputation, but the sort of reputation which Mr. Ted Redhead had in the House and his constituency will perhaps take a decade or more to establish, if I am lucky enough to enjoy the confidence of the electorate that long.

The Bill is very important. As a politician, I think that it is up to us to establish that politics is a meaningful activity which bears some relevance to the concerns of ordinary people, including young people. We need a clear-thinking logical approach to social problems. I am not certain that the Bill embodies clarity of thought and logic. I support it, but I have three criticisms.

First, the Bill is, as I think the Home Secretary implied, rather hypocritical. It attacks socially unacceptable drugs but does nothing about socially acceptable drugs. It attacks the drugs of young people, but does nothing about the drugs of middle-aged and elderly people. When looking through Schedule 2, I thought that something called "nicodicodine" might have been a misprint for "nicotine", but I understand that there is no intention of doing anything about that. If there is a distinction to be made between drugs, it should be between drugs which are a danger to health and those which are not, but the Bill does not make that distinction.

My second criticism is that it does nothing about the prevention of drug addiction. We must first realise that it is necessary to educate parents and, even more important, local authorities about the perils of drug addiction. A number of local authorities, particularly in urban districts, have their heads in the sand about the existence of a drugs problem locally. There are many instances, certainly in my area of Waltham Forest. After hearing learned aldermen of the district saying, "We have no drugs problems," some young reporters on the local newspaper proved the following week that it was possible to go to a teenagers' café and buy a small piece of LSD on a piece of paper for 2s. 6d. with no trouble at all. There is clearly a drugs problem, but we shall not start to tackle it until everyone in the country is aware that the problem exists, and this is very much a matter for parents and local authorities as well as the House of Commons.

Secondly, we need to do some research into why people take drugs. But it is true that there are some deficient personalities, I see them myself, because, like my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, West (Mr. Horam), I have the dubious distinction of living at Piccadilly Circus, which is the centre of the illegal drug trade. The type of people one sees there, the drug addicts, are undoubtedly the lowest of the low and probably have deficient personalities, as may be seen from what they say, the way in which they congregate and behave and so on. But that is only a small part of the problem of drug addiction.

Many people, an increasing number, take drugs to express a protest, to express rejection of the values of the society in which they find themselves—for example, our addiction to materialism, to success, to money and so on. They find that their parents have not gained satisfaction from their worship of these gods and they prefer to live for kicks, to get their pleasures as they can, from drugs if necessary, and not to slave all their lives for a pension at the age of 65, if they are lucky enough to live to get it. That is the second reason why people take drugs.

There is a third reason. Some take drugs because they have failed to live up to the standards of our society; they have failed in our rat race. They therefore want to take drugs because they are inadequate or insecure, or are under a certain degree of social strain. Here, again, the remedy is in our own hands.

Finally, there is a reason for drug addiction about which the House will be able to do nothing. There is a number—and I suspect that it is an increasing number—of fairly intellectual young people who take drugs for experimentation, for the kicks that it gives them, for so-called heightened perceptions. This is all a load of absolute rubbish, but at the same time it is happening in America and I suspect that, as with so many other aspects of our society, what is happening in America is likely to happen here, unless we do something about it.

We should recognise the limits of legislation. The need—and that is why I am on this side of the House—is to effect a radical change in our society, in social structures and institutions, so that people are not condemned as failures at any point of their existence as human beings, so that they may at all times fulfil their potentialities and lead truly creative lives. Until we have established that sort of society, drug addiction will become an increasingly serious problem.

My third criticism is that, unfortunately, I suspect that the Bill is likely to increase crime. We shall make drugs for the addict scarcer and therefore push up the black market price for drugs. The addict will have three choices. He may give up drugs, but we all agree that that is most unlikely. He may turn to alternatives, but the Bill makes provision in time for cracking down on those alternatives. Finally, he may continue addiction and buy drugs at higher black market prices.

What has happened in the United States may happen here as the drug supply dries up and drugs become more expensive. Drug addicts are not normally criminal types in the generally accepted sense of the word, but they are likely to turn to petty and violent crime in order to obtain the money which they will need to buy drugs on the black market. At the moment, we do not have that problem. What we have in the area of Piccadilly Circus is persistent begging for money to buy drugs, although different excuses are given. It is begging on a fairly substantial scale and I am sure that nothing can be done about it. But begging for 2s. is one thing and finding £s and £s to get a daily drug supply is entirely a different matter. I strongly suspect that if we are not careful, we shall see a rise in petty crime as a result of making drugs scarcer.

I reiterate that I support the Bill with reservations, but it is only a tentative first step which the House is taking in tackling what will become an increasingly widespread and serious social problem.

5.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Havers Mr Michael Havers , Wimbledon

I observe with pleasure the conventions of a maiden speech. I should like to speak briefly of my constituency, famous as the home of one of the greatest sports enjoyed by so many and host to so many of the finest tennis players in the world. It is also one of the most beautiful boroughs in London, where even the smallest garden is attractively kept. It is a friendly and hospitable constituency which has made available some of its loveliest land to neighbouring councils for old people's homes. I am proud to be its representative here.

The second convention which I observe with pleasure is to refer to my predecessor, Sir Cyril Black. Sir Cyril will always be remembered in the House for his qualities of courage and total integrity. He was always prepared fearlessly to support minority views, and the yardstick of his reputation and character may be demonstrated by the fact that he numbered among his many friends those who opposed many of his campaigns. I feel a sense of inadequacy as his successor, but I shall always be grateful for the kindness and support which he has given to me since I was chosen to replace him. He was, I am told, a good House of Commons man, and his retirement will be a great loss to the House, and we wish him well for the future.

In a maiden speech, I should not spend a great deal of time on the Bill, but there are two Clauses which as a matter of principle I do not like in their present form. Clause 28 shifts the burden of proof in certain cases. There seems to be no reason why the rule which has existed for so many centuries should be changed. It is a good rule. It is a rule of which every jury is reminded—"He who brings the charge must prove it". I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to reconsider whether this change should be maintained.

My principal objection to the Bill concerns Clause 25 where one finds yet again the provision that no prosecution shall be taken before quarter sessions or assizes except at the election of the defendant, or if the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions has been obtained. I do not know why that provision is included. With practically every ordinary criminal offence carrying sufficient sentence if necessary to justify the matter going to a higher court, the prosecution has the right to elect to ask for the case to be tried by a higher court. As the Bill stands, a case may go to a higher court only at the election of the defendant.

That means that a man may be charged with a number of serious criminal offences under the Bill carrying as much as 14 years apiece and yet only by his choice can he be put at risk for them. Otherwise, he remains in the magistrates' court where the total maximum sentence which may be imposed is 12 months. Even if in the course of the hearing, as may happen in a number of cases, the magistrates take the view that it is more serious than they had originally understood it to be and ought to go to assizes or quarter sessions, they will have no power to order it to do so.

The ordinary rule should apply. Over the past few years too much of the discretion of magistrates has been taken from them as to the way in which they conduct their courts and the sentences they give. This begins to be yet another example of that and I very much hope that my right hon. Friend will reconsider this matter when the Bill goes into Committee.

I thank the House for its indulgence.

5.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Rother Valley

I enter this debate with no particular knowledge of medical or legal science, unlike other hon. Members who also have made their maiden speeches, but I can speak as the representative of a very large constituency which contains a good deal of economic value and not a little social wisdom.

The Rother Valley constituency was created in 1918. From then until the recent General Election it was represented by three men, each of whom worked in the pits before his election. My predecessor, David Griffiths, served in this House throughout a quarter of a century, making a contribution in many ways, not least by his work on the War Graves Commission.

I do not regard my election as a great departure from the traditional interest of my constituency. My connection with the area is close and real, close by virtue of origin and residence and real by virtue of my previous public service and my occupation. The few people whom I taught were largely from miners' homes, like myself.

Coal mining is our most important industry and must remain so, because the coal that we extract in Rother Valley is, perhaps, the best in Europe. Steel is also a very important part of our economy, employing many of my electors. Ours is, therefore, an area with the normal traditional heritage of steel and mining towns, areas with a history of risk and deprivation but areas which possess a sense of domestic responsibility and good neighbourliness. In that sort of atmosphere it is very difficult for the extremes of addiction and vice to proliferate.

Rother Valley is a county constituency composed of many small towns and villages. Some of those villages have grown quickly in recent years because many people are moving into the country, into our agricultural areas, from the congestion of neighbouring and more densely-populated larger centres of population in the towns and cities around.

It may be that that movement into the country from the urban areas is not an irrelevant point to make in a debate on the subject which is before us this afternoon. That movement to the country is certainly one of the reasons why I have such a large electorate, which the Boundary Commissioners appear to have ignored, and an electorate about which I do not complain. I certainly do not make any complaint about the majority.

Some hon. Members may regard my sort of mining and steel area as a dirty and derelict area full of people who are rough and inarticulate. I would never claim that we completely lack roughness and inarticulation, but I believe that in our sort of area we have the sense of responsibility and the identification of people with their neighbours to an extent which means that people are not aimless and have not lost their identity, which seems to be a problem in many of our large cities. The problem of this loss of relationship among people may be one of the relevant aspects in the severe problem of the misuse of drugs.

Like all hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, I support the Bill in broad terms. It is certainly necessary that heavier penalties should be applied for drug trafficking. I think, however, that far too many people take an extremely superficial view of a problem of this nature. They read in a newspaper a sensational report of an individual tragedy and their automatic response seems to lead them to utter a general condemnation of young people. As a teacher, I have a long and recent connection with young people and I find that it is far too easy and facile to issue those general condemnations of the young. People in society should realise that young people will live up to the labels that are given to them, that they will live up to the ideas of society about them and that they are very much as society creates them. They may well have more opportunity today than they have ever had before, but they face much more complex pressures than any previous generation has ever faced.

In the Whitsuntide Adjournment debate introduced by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), to which reference has been made, the then Sir Edward Boyle referred to the rôle of schools in society. In particular relationship to this problem, the rôle of the school is extremely important. It should, however, be realised that the influence of the school is, perhaps, less than the influence of the opposing forces in our society and somewhat less, perhaps, than the influence of home. As one hon. Member pointed out, the influence of home is much more unsatisfactory than most of us would desire. Figures have been given which show that the drug addict is much more likely to come from a broken home than to be a youngster who is active in his youth club, at school or in voluntary service at home or overseas.

As well as the influence of home, there is the dreadful influence of society within education, with its insistence on competition, much of which is completely unnecessary. We place great pleasure on our young people to compete. We insist upon their striving to win. We expect them to pass an 11-plus examination which is unnecessary, we expect them to get more O-levels than the rest and then place upon them the pressures of struggling to get a university place and all the competition which exists in our society and which to a very large extent is unnecessary.

It may well be that as a result of that competition a socially selective élite may emerge, and to a very real extent it is an arrogant élite. In addition to that élite, however, there are created social casualties, individuals who feel inferior when no individual should and individuals who choose to opt out from the society in which they feel that they have failed. It is from these individuals who wish to opt out, who have not realised that this is impossible, that the ranks of the drug addicts are filled.

Unlike many hon. Members, I have not spent much time in London during the last 10 or 15 years. I have read repeatedly that it is supposed to be a gay and swinging city. I suppose that there is in this city a rather tawdry gaiety and I cannot claim to understand what the word "swinging" means. As a schoolmaster in South Yorkshire for a considerable time, however, the only comment that I would make on that is that I am rather amazed that the incidence of insanity, crime, addiction and the rest is not greater when people are packed in the sort of areas in which many millions of people are compelled to live in Britain today. Therefore, if we are to resolve the problems of drug addiction, it becomes vital for us to be concerned with housing, education and general social provision and to realise that the problem cannot be divorced from the wider social aspects generally.

Many of my constituents who have, perhaps, little connection with young people or with drug addiction are saying today that the permissive society has become quite permissive enough. I do not agree with them in entirety but I believe that while freedom is vital, we nevertheless cannot allow our young people to have that amount of freedom in which they may easily be led into perdition. For this reason, it is vital that the squalid creatures who peddle destruction to the young, and sometimes the very young indeed, should be treated with all the severity that is proposed in the Bill.

At the same time, we have to remember that the sentences proposed in the Bill for addicts are not the answer, that the addicts who are imprisoned need much more help than the Bill may propose and far more help than the nightly clang of a cell door, which will be their fate if the Bill is passed. A prison sentence may be deserved but help should be given.

If we are properly to cater for the problem of drug addiction, it seems to me to be essential that in addition to the deterrent there should be provision for the complaint; and that if we are to find the cure we have to look for the cause, which may lie much more deeply in society than many people in our community expect.

We may by the Bill reduce the sale of drugs, we may reduce the measure of addiction, but as one with long experience of young people I feel that we may be too hopeful and expecting too much from the Bill, because the causes of the complaint with which it attempts to deal lie very deep in the roots of our society.

I am conscious that my first contribution to debate may have been rather pedestrian. I cannot even pronounce, as other Members have been able to pronounce, the names of all the listed drugs mentioned in the Bill. I am conscious, too, that my maiden speech may not have been as loud or dramatic as some which the House has already heard in this Parliament. Perhaps the dull nature of my speech can be attributed to the fact that I am a South Yorkshireman, and we are not generally excitable or mercurial in South Yorkshire; our regional temperament is sound. I hope that our temperament is as sound as the stone of this Palace, which was quarried in my constituency. I support the Bill as one stone in the social fabric. It is a necessary stone, but many more need to be laid.

5.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) on his speech. It would be impertinent of me to refer generally to the clutch of maiden speeches to which we have listened today, but I think that they have collectively injected a good deal of common sense into this subject which some of us have been discussing for some time. The hon. Gentleman will probably be gladder that his speech is over than those of us who had the pleasure of listening to it.

Unlike the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), I take the view that the Bill has been reintroduced at the right time and in the right way. The right hon. Gentleman was very critical of the Bill returning in its previous form and made some observations on that account. I think that the Home Secretary has done right to bring it back quickly and unchanged. In view of comments made by new as well as experienced Members and some earlier criticisms, my right hon. Friend can use the breathing space before the House returns in the autumn to make needy changes. That seems to me an eminently sensible way of going about this Measure. Most of the changes which we shall want to make should be made in Committee; they are not to be argued here. Without going into detail, I wish to indicate some areas—and they have been touched on by maiden speakers—about which I think the Home Secretary would be wise to think again.

We should define more clearly what we are trying to do. The Home Secretary said that to him the problem was how far the community should interfere with the freedom of the individual. That is right. But it is also a question of how far the community is prepared to look after its own health. This is basically a community problem. I regard the Bill as a transitional stage. I hope that we shall reach the point at which we do not have to rely on the law as heavily as we do now. The main object must be to check drug abuse, as with other epidemics, by public health education. That will call for a major effort for which we are ill prepared. The sooner we prepare for it the better.

We should look at the Bill and visualise ways in which it can perhaps strengthen the effort which will have to be made, not simply by law-makers or the Home Office but by the community. In this chemically-infested world, our society must learn to live without doing itself too much harm. That must be the long-term objective. America has taken a very long time to learn the importance of the community contribution. I hope that, by shorter cuts, we shall reach the right answer sooner and realise how much the law must be supplemented by work at community level.

An important decision will have to be made before the Bill comes back to the House in the small but dangerous field of addiction—and by "addiction" I mean everyone who is on the "needle", whether heroin or anything else. In 1967 we rejected the idea of compulsory treatment, and I think that many doctors reject it now. Short of that, I am sure that we shall have to tighten up our arrangements; they are not working out. This is an infectious and dangerous area which is not being reduced.

The Home Office figures, such as they are, for notified addicts are not strictly reliable because many cases of people who are on the "needle" have not been notified and therefore we do not know how many are suffering from this form of addiction. We must look again at a system which from the start gave me misgivings, namely, the State maintenance of addicts. I do not want to disparage the treatment centres, which have done a hard job as well as they could. But they have not reduced the number of addicts. All that they have done in some places is to substitute methadon addicts for heroin addicts. I hope that the Home Secretary will take searching medical advice on this so-called cure because it is time that we considered it very closely. We should consider whether the Mental Health Act contains the means to put some of these people within a firmer framework.

I was greatly encouraged to hear what the Home Secretary said about forthcoming talks with the General Medical Council. It is crucial that these talks succeed. They stand a better chance of succeeding if the Government and the medical profession accept the nature of the problem. It was brilliantly touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford), who, if I may say so without impertinence, made a singularly well-informed speech from the medical standpoint. Most of us would agree with what he said.

At the time of the Brain Report and of the 1967 Act, we appeared to be taking action to stop a few black sheep among doctors running amok. That is the basis of part of the Bill. I wish that I thought it was the main problem. I have spoken—and my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South referred to my remark—about grey sheep in rather larger numbers. I accept his amendment. To the grey sheep in the profession who are causing difficulty we should add what must be described as the willing victims of local circumstances—that is, doctors who have been drawn into this problem and who are doing their best but are not making much contribution to its ultimate solution.

To be specific, many addicts have been injecting barbiturates. They were not prescribed, as methamphetamine was prescribed in the earlier craze, by a handful of doctors; they were prescribed by many doctors. Did the doctors prescribing barbiturates to those who inject them know for whom they were prescribing? If so, some awkard questions could be asked. If they did not, even more awkward questions, in one sense, could be asked.

The Advisory Sub-Committee is to look into the question of barbiturates and I hope that we shall have some answers in time for the final stages of the Bill. It is, however, very disturbing that a breakdown of the 15 to 17 million barbiturate prescriptions given every year shows that there is an average of 80 tablets per prescription. Why? I suspect that the answer partly is the prescription charge—and hon. Members opposite are entitled to make what they like of that, but I want to deal with the facts. A quantity of 100 a time saves money. This is not necessarily a reflection on the prescription charges but it is a reflection on medical practice. All I would assert is that an average of 80 barbiturate tablets a time is too many and is one cause of the large overspill of tablets now in circulation and being abused.

Photo of Dr Maurice Miller Dr Maurice Miller , Glasgow Kelvingrove

Does the right hon. Gentleman not appreciate, however, that it is possible to prescribe barbiturates in very small strengths, and that, if a doctor wishes to have someone on a barbiturate without giving him large quantities to take per day, he can prescribe them in a very minor strength, which would necessitate him giving prescriptions for 100 tablets?

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

I accept this, but the hon. Gentleman will accept in his turn, I think, that some prescriptions are given out which are not covered by that proviso; it is those which cause me anxiety. In a sentence, a great deal of careless prescribing has gone on here, and we all know it. The conduct of many doctors in respect of dangerous drugs leaves a great deal to be desired.

Following on what my right hon. Friend said, many of us believe that the medical profession must take a share of responsibility. They have power, through the General Medical Council and its disciplinary committee, and I do not believe that this should all be left to Government, with sponsored tribunals and the kind of official investigation proposed in the Bill. The reluctance of the General Medical Council—perhaps at the risk of tedious repetition I might repeat what I have said before—to share responsibility here drew the last Government, as it will draw the present Government if these talks do not succeed, into designing an apparatus which would steadily encroach on doctors' right to prescribe. Yesterday it was heroin, today it is amphetamines, and tomorrow it will be barbiturates. It is a bad principle and unworkable in practice. I accept that the medical profession cannot do it all, but what I insist is that we here should not try to do it all. We should move towards and not away from professional self-regulation. That is why I was so glad to hear what my right hon. Friend said.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will take another look at the penalty Clauses. In the first place—here I echo what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South—he will find this distinction between pushing and possession very difficult in practice. There is a distinction between smuggling large quantities of drugs into this country, usually cannabis, and possessing small quantities. Beyond this, it will be hard to establish when those in possession are proselytising and when they are not.

On the penalty clause I would add only this reflection. Could not the Home Secretary consider this? Why, in logic or in justice, should someone selling small quantities of drugs be liable for a heavy penalty, perhaps as much as 14 years, while someone who advocates irresponsibility to millions—it may well be via the media of television and so on—the use of this drug or that, often in an unanswered way, is regarded as entirely innocent? I am all for free speech, but some of the remarks which go unchallenged directed at young people on the subject of drugs make a major contribution to our problems.

In reality, of course, the crux is not what the law says, whatever the Bill does, but how the courts apply the law. The courts are as confused about the hierarchy of drugs as are most of us. Judges and magistrates will need a better brief. This is where the sphere of public education should begin. On balance, I think that the police know most. I have become increasingly impressed by the knowledge of policemen, particularly in provincial forces, who are making a special study of this and doing their best, not only in the light of their own responsibilities but as a social agency, to deal with young people caught up in this problem in towns. It is easier in the provinces than in London, but it is being done and tribute should be paid.

I do not dismiss the worries of the libertarians lightly. They have their anxieties. But we must distinguish carefully between the worries and anxieties of the libertarians and the determination of an influential minority to damage the police, to accuse the police of planting or, in another context, of bashing, beating up. This has become a habit in some quarters, both for those who are defending themselves against unanswerable charges and also for those who understand very well that undermining the public confidence in the police is a short cut to discrediting established order. I know that some think that, in the recent inquiry in which I had some part, we let the police off too lightly. We shall argue that at the proper time. Meanwhile, I think that the difficult job they are doing in this respect should be acknowledged by the House.

Much of this brings me to my last point. Their duties and our duties would be greatly eased if we could inculcate a more informed attitude about cannabis. I will not follow up the argument which arose out of a remark of mine between my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East. Unlike much opinion here and in other parts of the world, I am not led by recent experience to take a more genial view of "pot"—quite otherwise. My reasons—again I must pay a tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South—are identical to those which he offered.

The drugs scene changes very quickly: fashions shift. In my view, circumstantial evidence today is strong that the area of principal danger now is and will remain for a long time the hallucinogens—by which I mean cannabis, LSD, and, in the background, S.T.P. The amount of cannabis being smoked today is unquestionably very large indeed. We cannot quantify it, but we cannot doubt that the habit is pervasive, perhaps more pervasive than we should like to think.

The police know very well that there is a big and profitable market here and that people are prepared increasingly to take risks—as some evidence from Europe is showing us—to make what they can of that market. The use of LSD has also increased, partly with the advent of the LSD pill, which makes its consumption much easier than having to take it in liquid form on a lump of sugar.

These hallucinogens have strong attractions in certain circles. One danger is this. Some smoke "pot" because they say that it is a relaxation, but some use it for what they term self-discovery. When they are disappointed by the results, they can be easily induced to turn to the drug which has the closest affinity in that sense, namely LSD. I agree with what my hon. Friend said. It is not the "pot"-heroin syndrome, on which we have dwelt over-long and in which many of the young knew us to have been wrong, that we should worry about, but the "pot"-LSD connection, which is, I think, the principal danger now.

Photo of Mr Elystan Morgan Mr Elystan Morgan , Cardiganshire

How can the right hon. Gentleman say that the young know us to be wrong about the "pot"-heroin syndrome, since this is still very much an open question?

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

Perhaps I over-stated it, and I do not want to over-state the matter. I do not want to go back on my words about the case we make not being credible. Let me put it this way. There was a time, as the hon. Gentleman will remember, when we tried to impress on the young that those who smoked cannabis were in pretty close peril of turing over to heroin, that one would follow the other. It is true that, among a number of heroin takers, one will find a high proportion who have been on "pot". What the young know, of course, very well is that a large number of people have smoked "pot" but have never gone on to heroin. This is where our argument got itself into difficulties among young people, who argue about these things perhaps more logically and more closely than we may suspect. All I am saying is that, medically, the really dangerous condition is between "pot" and LSD much more than "pot" and heroin.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

That is a very interesting point. As I understand it, with "pot" one gets a hallucinating effect only when one takes a large overdose. A minor use of it does not have such effects. When one has a large overdose, it has a hallucinatory effect, with other very unpleasant symptoms which come from the overdose. I should not have thought that hallucination was likely to be attractive if it came only in a most uncomfortable and unhappy form.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

I think I shall be taking up the hon. and learned Gentleman's point in my next remarks. There are two misconceptions about "pot" and cannabis which ought to be cleared up. The first thing which is overlooked is the infinite variety of the potency of "pot". There is an enormously wide range in what one can smoke, and at one end of the range one gets one result and at the other end of the range one gets a quite different result. It depends, technically, on whether one is smoking resin or flowering leaf, and even then much depends upon the concentration in what one is smoking. People who talk about "pot" in a general way are talking nonsense. "Pot" is as variable as alcohol, and we all know the difference between a glass of sherry and neat alcohol.

The second point is crucial. It is the amount smoked. I know a doctor who thinks that people who are smoking twice a week are in danger. I am not qualified to say whether this is true or not, but certainly those who smoke the strongest mixture, nearly always the resin—and, as I understand it, it is the resin which is brought into this country in the largest quantities—those who smoke that hard, are in danger of becoming tomorrow's dropouts. Those are the people who will find themselves overcome by apathy and by other moods which will render them, to put it mildly, less useful citizens.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

Both with alcohol and "pot". if we get seriously drunk upon it, then, for nearly all of us, it is a very unpleasant state. Those who do not find it an unpleasant state, whether from alcohol or "pot", are in real trouble.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

That is a rational argument, but we are not dealing with rational people, and the hon. and learned Gentleman knows that the same thing can be said with far greater emphasis about the effect of heroin. The first dose is often quite horrible yet those who experience heroin derive great euphoria from the result.

However, the point which I want to stress is that if we increase the number of smokers we shall increase the number of hard users. Thus we should be careful about accepting a more liberal attitude than we have, for hard users are not only of harm to themselves but eventually are a harm to our society.

Although I like the Bill I doubt whether we shall achieve our purpose by it alone. Its prime object is to restrict supplies. That is the prime object of the Bill. I think it was the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins) who pointed out that if we restrict supplies we create a market, and a smaller market. A smaller market means higher prices and so more profit to those engaged in this traffic. So we may increase our problem.

The Home Office or the Department of Health and Social Security or the Department of Education and Science must get down to the framework of public health education. I have here some recent publications from America on these lines, "How to run a community system", "How to speak in public on drugs" and others. This is the approach we ought to take up, and at once. The Home Secretary may say that this could be done outside the framework of the Bill. Perhaps some of it can, but in addition to the agencies envisaged in the Bill we may need an agency for the stimulation of information and education. This is a public—and I stress "public"—health problem, and we should encourage by every means the public to share it and to take responsibility for it, and we should give them the means of doing so.

5.54 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) made a very much tougher speech tonight than he did in March when we had the Second Reading of the previous Bill, a very much more abrasive speech, and I wonder what accounts for the change in tone. In March, the right hon. Gentleman had his criticisms about the Bill—yes, indeed; but he felt that the Bill dwelt heavily on powers and penalties on that occasion and dealt too little with the people involved. While he said some very tough things about "pot" and the people who smoke "pot", he reminded us, in these terms, that America has had Draconian penalties for the misuse of dangerous drugs—heroin, marijuana, the lot—and she has tried hard to enforce them, yet abuse in America has spread like an oil fire in a timber shed, and more particularly in the last year or two."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1970; Vol. 798, c. 1462.] I think, therefore, that we ought to take what the right hon. Gentleman said today with a few pinches of salt, because apparently now that he sits on that side of the House he is rather less conciliatory to the delinquent young, the misguided young, than when he sat on this side of the House.

One needs to approach this matter with a fair amount of caution and a fair amount of humility. Certainly we do not know enough about the smoking of marijuana. The Wootton Report indicates that we need to know a great deal more, and I endorse what has been said on both sides of the House about the need for more research into why people are motivated and urged into taking drugs, why they do what they do, why they turn to a particular kind of drug, and what it is which compels them to seek this prop to help them to deal with the problems of everyday life.

Certainly I endorse what has been said in some of the excellent maiden speeches made here this afternoon, that we have not arrived at the American situation—God forbid that we should—in which deaths of teenagers from heroin addiction are occurring every day, and in which, in New York alone, about 224 teenagers died in 1969, the youngest being a negro boy of 12. This is a horrifying situation and one which we must do everything we can to prevent from occurring here.

I should like, if I may, to congratulate the maiden speakers we have heard this afternoon. They have been the most able speeches and the best bunch of maiden speeches I have heard in the House for some time. This is the first occasion on which I have listened to so many maiden speakers all in one day. I congratulate the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford), who spoke with great experience as a doctor, and I am sure that we shall look forward very much to hearing his expert views on many subjects in future. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow. West (Mr. Deakins) and the hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Havers) and my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy). They were excellent speeches. We shall look forward to hearing all these speakers again in due course.

There is just one point I should like to take up with my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West. He was talking about the steps which drug addicts take to get the supplies which they need or to get the money to buy the drugs which they need, and he rather implied that the crimes which we have experienced because of these drives and urges were rather small, rather petty. Those of us who were concerned with the previous Bill and who served on the Committee on that Bill have been concerned with the increase in crime from the desire to get the help of drugs or to get the money to buy drugs, and we were concerned that that was a main motivation. We have been concerned with the crimes of violence, with the crimes of breaking into chemists' premises and manufacturing druggists' premises, too. They arose from this overwhelming desire to acquire drugs or the means of acquiring them. This is one reason why the previous Bill was introduced by my right hon. Friend and why the Home Secretary is now introducing this Bill.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Ashford that we should educate young people, parents and teachers to recognise the signs of drug addiction. Unfortunately the Bill does not deal with this problem. We urged the previous Home Secretary and the previous Secretary of State for Education and Science to provide the guidance needed by teachers. I know that a good deal has been done, but the booklet which has been produced is most inadequate and I urge the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Education and Science to see that more energetic and authoritative guidance is given to teachers so that they in turn can pass it on to parents. Many parents do not realise that their children are taking drugs until it is too late and they are within a short period of death from drug addiction.

Prescription charges have led to a certain amount of over-prescribing by members of the medical profession. It is easier for the doctor if the patient does not have to visit him so frequently, and the patient also saves money. Many of my hon. Friends foresaw this danger when it was proposed to reintroduce prescription charges.

The Bill is deficient in the amount of encouragement it gives for research into the motivations of drug addiction. The sum mentioned in the Bill is inadequate for this purpose. I hope that the results of the research instituted by my right hon. Friend the previous Home Secretary will soon be available and that it will shed more light on the reasons why young people turn to drugs. Drug addiction is a problem of young people under 25, and the starting age seems to be getting lower. There are known cases of very young school children experimenting with drugs. That is a terrifying development.

I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman is to have discussions with representatives of the medical profession to see whether they can put their own house in order. If, as is said, there are abuses under the Abortion Act, it is for the medical profession to put its house in order, and the same is true of drug prescribing and addiction.

The medical profession could do without amphetamines. They are unnecessary in therapeutic practice. Sweden has banned amphetamines from medical prescription except for narcolepsy, which is very rare. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will put this suggestion to the medical profession. I do not agree with what the right hon. Member for Ashford said about the connection between cannabis and other drugs such as heroin. I think that the link is much closer between amphetamines and heroin, and this has been shown by research to be so. The removal of amphetamines would, therefore, have a valuable effect.

Treatment is an urgent problem which lies fairly and squarely on the medical profession. Our difficulty is that there is no universal treatment for drug addiction but many different ideas being pursued in many different areas. The time is long past when the Royal Colleges could have given thought to the treatment of drug addiction and could have set up a standing conference to pool experience, resources and ideas. That would have enabled the medical profession to have had a unified approach to the treatment of drug addicts.

We must consider what is to happen to addicts after treatment. I am absolutely opposed to sending drug addicts to prison, where neither facilities nor medical manpower are available. Drug addicts are damaged people who need medical treatment by psychologists and psychiatric social workers, and sending them to prison will not help them. Once drug addicts have received treatment they are sent out in the same way as prisoners are sent out of prisons. They go back to the environment from whence they came, to the same contacts, the same inadequate family, and perhaps to a divided home. They go back to precisely the environment which led them to take drugs in the first place and back to the contacts from whom they were able to acquire drugs. There is an inescapable need to provide the "half-way house" accommodation which is needed for prisoners and just as urgently needed for drug addicts. We need far more hostel accommodation, with trained and sympathetic people in charge, to provide a sheltered environment for a period until addicts are able to fend for themselves and to face their every-day problems.

The Home Secretary will need to try very hard to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give him more money for his Department, in the same way as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), when Home Secretary, sought to persuade the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is often a losing battle, but those of us who are concerned with this whole area of activity will support the right hon. Gentleman to the hilt in any endeavours which are made to this end.

There is still a great deal to do in matters which go rather beyond the bounds of the Bill. We shall try in Committee to improve the Bill so as to make it stronger and to give the Home Secretary rather more authority and power. I support those who take the view that the penalties for drug pushers should be even tougher than is indicated in the Bill. I appreciate that it is difficult to distinguish the pushers from the users of drugs. There is considerable overlap and proof is difficult to obtain. There should be much stiffer penalties for those who sell drugs to young children. People who sell drugs to children who are still at school should be dealt with in the severest possible way, and I hope that in due course the Government will accept a proposal of this kind.

We should examine the system under which members of the medical profession who have been found guilty of over-prescribing or indeed of committing an offence of any kind under the drugs legislation are allowed to continue to practise. This is a serious point and is a matter which should be dealt with by the General Medical Council. That Council has the means of dealing with the black sheep and the grey sheep in the medical profession, but it has not employed them sufficiently often.

We all remember the exploits of doctors Petro and Swann who were both members of the medical profession. They were found guilty, they then appealed, and for a period of months during which their appeals were awaiting hearing they were allowed to continue to do precisely what they had originally been charged with doing. They were allowed to continue to over-prescribe drugs. This is a scandal which should be dealt with by the medical profession. If the medical profession will not deal with it, I hope that we shall be able to deal with it in Committee. There are ways in which this matter can be covered, and it may be remembered that I put down Amendments in this respect to the original Bill.

I welcome the Bill, although I feel that it does not go far enough and needs strengthening. Therefore, I hope that at a later stage we shall seek to give the Measure more strength.

6.14 p.m.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler , Nottingham South

I wish to ask for the customary indulgence of the House in making my maiden speech. I only wish that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) had mentioned a little earlier the fact that he was in possession of such a useful American booklet as "How to speak in public on drugs". I wish first to mention my predecessor, Mr. George Perry, who sat for Nottingham, South from 1966. I would pay tribute to the contribution he made to the constituency, and I gather that he also showed a suitable independence in this House.

As the House may know, South Nottingham has many claims to distinction. For the sportsman, there is the undoubted advantage that it houses the headquarters of the Nottingham Forest Football Club, as well as the headquarters of Notts County Football Club, and Nottinghamshire Cricket Club. No hon. Member for Nottingham, South is ever in any doubt about what he is expected to do on a Saturday afternoon.

South Nottingham is not a constituency that falls into easy classification. One way of dividing the country is on a basis of what falls north or south of the River Trent. I am glad to say that the River Trent runs straight through the middle of my constituency and thus we can claim to represent the best of both worlds. This also gives me the advantage of both a city and county part. We are privileged to house the headquarters of Nottinghamshire County Council, which is now under the very able chairmanship of Alderman Mrs. Yates. It also includes the separate urban district council of West Bridgford, which has always proved that small councils can also be very efficient.

On the city side, we have such landmarks as the castle and the park, an area of great charm since it is set so near to the city centre. I should add that in parts of the constituency there are great social problems like poor housing, which must be tackled.

Nottinghamshire is particularly fortunate in having a first-class police force supported by an excellent police authority, but there can be no doubt that they face an imposing task in dealing with drug addiction. I would emphasise that in this respect I refer to the whole of Nottinghamshire and not just to my constituency. This may be of interest to the House as showing the kind of problem that exists outside London. An assumption too often made is that the drugs problem in London is the same as that which exits in the rest of the country. But this is not true.

The most important feature of the picture in Nottinghamshire is that undoubtedly the drugs problem is increasing. Last year there were 66 arrests for drug offences and, if the present trend continues, that figure will have doubled by the end of this year. It must be remembered that the number of arrests can only be a guide to the size of the problem because of the difficulties involved in recording drug offences as compared with other crimes. In a case of burglary at least one has the evidence of the burgled house, even if there is no detected burglar. But a drug offender must be caught before the offence can be recorded. Thus the total is almost certainly an under-estimate.

It is also necessary to be clear about the exact nature of the drugs problem in areas like Nottinghamshire outside London. There is an unwelcome tendency to lump all drugs together into one drug problem, but there are important differences. In London there was first the problem of heroin, which was followed by Methedrine and then the problem of methadone. But heroin had never been a major problem in Nottingham. Our problem is very much concerned with the inaccurately labelled problem of "soft drugs", in particular the abuse of the amphetamine "pep" pills. This Bill undoubtedly makes a great contribution to tackling this part of the problem.

Another problem which has been touched upon in this debate, and which has become evident in Nottingham as well as in other areas, has been the abuse of barbiturates, sleeping pills. Abuse has taken the form of the injection of barbiturates which is extremely dangerous to the user. I appreciate that there may be difficulties in imposing restrictions in this matter if for no other reason than the large numbers which are at present prescribed. I am also aware that the Advisory Committee is now examining this question, but I would stress the urgency of this matter.

In the main, there can be no doubt that the Bill will make an oustanding contribution to trying to solve the drugs problem. Above all, it provides a flexibility in the control machinery which is undoubtedly necessary in considering the variation that there has been in the drugs picture over the last few years and the changes in the drugs which have been abused.

There are two points raised by the Bill which I believe should be explored further. First, the new restrictions could have the effect of increasing the task of the police forces. The new controls should mean that the "grey" market created by over-prescription on the part of a few doctors is brought to an end. But there is the possibility that a more directly black market could be created, and that point was also mentioned by the lion. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins).

In dealing with this, I believe that the police cannot afford to ignore the possibility that such a development may take place. Therefore, a great deal will depend on the efficient work of drugs squads throughout the country. It would be good to know that the police could be assigned more men to take part in this very important work. But we all know the difficulties involved in providing men to do the host of jobs that they are already expected to perform. An alternative is to look at ways in which the police could operate more effectively. In the East Midlands, there is already voluntary co-operation between the drug squads of the various forces. The advantage is quite simply that a picture of the whole region can be built up and, in drugs, this is very important as new forms of abuse can quickly spread from one part of the country to another.

Will my right hon. and hon. Friends consider setting up properly constituted regional drugs squads on the same lines as the regional crime squads were set up some years ago? Such squads would be able to cross local police boundaries and operate within a region. Not only would they provide much greater efficiency in detection but much better information on what is happening with drugs throughout the country, and this information is crucial for the success of the Bill.

My second reservation is not about what is in the Bill but what is left out of it. Although the Bill deals very fully with control, there is precious little in it about treatment and rehabilitation. Having visited several drug dependence clinics and studied some of the after-care facilities available, I know that there is little ground for complacency about the situation.

My impression is that in many cases facilities are often run on shoestring budgets. This applies especially to after-care facilities. In spite of the excellent report of the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence dealing with rehabilitation, my view is that the case for better after-care facilities is still not sufficiently appreciated. There seems to be a fairly general impression that all that one needs to do when dealing with a user or a drug addict is to put him in hospital for a spell, after which all will be solved. That is emphatically not the case. It is no good simply discharging a former addict and allowing him to go back to his old friends and haunts. It may be precisely those friends who provide the context for his drug-taking. Nor in some cases is it much good sending him home, because in his view his home has failed before and proved inadequate.

It seems to me that there is a case for a wide range of after-care facilities, including hostels where they are needed and far more social workers. At long last, the need for after-care has been fully appreciated in prison rehabilitation. We should now make a special effort in drugs as well. Many addicts are young and capable of being rehabilitated. Time is running out if they are not to meet the early death which all too often is the fate of addiction.

It is that need that I would stress most. By this Bill, we now have an excellent control system. The next step must be for the Government to review and improve our system of treatment and after-care.

6.26 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , South Shields

It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler), who has made a very interesting and thoughtful speech. I have many reasons for saying that, not the least being that he did not need the booklet of advice on how to speak on this subject. He made a series of very valuable comments on the position. As Chairman of the Rehabilitation Committee of the Advisory Committee, I welcome the attention which the hon. Gentleman paid to its report. I will do him the credit of following some of his comments, because they are of real importance.

I fully agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Bill does not cover some of the more important areas which concern us in the matter of drug dependence. But, to be fair and honest both to my right hon. Friend who introduced the Bill originally and to the right hon. Gentleman who is now responsible, it could not. Treatment and rehabilitation are essential matters which must be dealt with separately. Treatment, especially, falls to be dealt with under the National Health Service, and many of us are most concerned that adequate resources should be made available through those channels both for treatment and for rehabilitation. I welcome the hon. Gentleman as an ally in this fight. It is a fight which is not purely against right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite since it is also against some members of the profession who are unwilling to give adequate priority to this kind of issue, which is by no means an easy one.

I also want to follow what the hon. Gentleman said about the problem as it arises in the provinces. I was myself anxious to say a few words on this aspect. There are some respects in which the problem in the Provinces is more difficult to deal with than that in London, although the size of the London problem is infinitely greater. Nevertheless, there are some facilities available in London to meet the problem, and one is more likely to find those in social welfare who know something about it and can offer advice and help as well as the treatment facilities which are established, limited as we know they are. In the provinces, even these do not exist, and one of the great difficulties is that, because of the relatively small numbers involved, it is often thought that they do not want the kind of provision which I believe is now required. We can no longer assume that this is a problem which only exists here in London. London is undoubtedly the mecca, of course. Very often supplies are collected in London, and then people move out to other parts of the country. Developments can take place rapidly in other parts of the country and we could find ourselves in the midst of a very serious situation.

At meetings which I have attended with the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) to discuss some of these problems in the provinces, I have discovered that some of those who had been affected and were trying to move out of addiction found it extremely difficult in the provinces to meet people who could give them advice and support. Among those most able to give support—in this case in the North-East—was a member of a drug squad who was able to speak the same language. He had taken the time and made the effort to get in contact with and to act as a social worker. This was very much to his credit and to the credit of those who had helped him to get to this position.

We also need more rapid provision of those who have expert knowledge of the scene in the general advice centres in the country. In some areas there may need to be special centres, day centres, and the like. However, that may not be appropriate in parts of the country where the numbers involved are not so great. But there is an urgent need for well-trained advice for young people who may be involved, and, indeed, for parents, as part of the general welfare setting, not as exclusive drug advice centres. This was recommended in the recent report on LSD and amphetamines. I hope that action will be taken along those lines. This is not only a problem in London, but also in the provinces.

I welcome the comments made by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South. We have also had some extremely valuable contributions from other maiden speakers in the debate. Reference has been made to the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Dr. Stuttaford), who speaks with special knowledge from his professional experience. But even he, it seems, was in some danger by quoting statistics about the proportion of drug cases which come from broken homes and other inadequate backgrounds. We tend to generalise, but there are dangers in doing so. Statistics in this sphere, as in so many others, are extremely inadequate, for some of the reasons put forward by the hon. Member for Nottingham, South. Therefore, we must not draw too much from statistics. Many of these cases are involved, but the drug problem is often a much wider social problem. We should be careful about the statistics which we quote, because many involved in the drug scene do not fit nicely into this kind of category.

I should like to take up one or two other points which have been raised. I am never happy when I hear people talking of hard and soft drugs. These kind of easy definitions which we used to think had a lot of meaning clearly have a good deal less meaning today. It depends very much on the way the drugs are used. Amphetamines were always regarded as soft drugs, but injected they are another matter. We are now in the midst, if we are not getting beyond it, of the problem of barbiturates and their injection. There has been another switch, according to what is available at a particular time—it may not last long—to a greater use of LSD with all the special problems and dangers involved.

I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) wrongly took up the right hon. Member for Ashford when she suggested that he was arguing that "pot" led necessarily to heroin. I do not think that was the right hon. Gentleman's point. His point was that there might be a closer connection between "pot" and LSD as potential hallucinogens rather than with heroin.

The whole argument was gone into in great detail in the report on cannabis. I would stick by that. There is a lack of proof, a lack of adequate scientific evidence, which enables us to speak with any certainty on this matter, but we must look at the problem connected with LSD with special care and anxiety.

Another matter which we need to examine is the need to ensure that there is adequate provision for a wide range of experiments in the form of hostel facilities for rehabilitation of addicts. I am happy that some experiments are being conducted in London. But one difficulty which is already emerging—certainly in one experiment—is encouraging ex-addicts to come along. It may be—this view is held by some people, anyway—that the provision of moderate supplies through existing treatment units and centres is encouraging an easy drifting atmosphere in which people carry on as moderate heroin addicts without any great incentive to move off it and to face the rigours of self-discipline needed to encourage them to come back into the community. That is what we want to achieve.

I know that one therapeutic community with which we are experimenting at the moment, a drug free hostel in London where this kind of self-discipline is being attempted, is very much concerned. It fears that our form of care and treatment in treatment centres is preventing us achieving the wider, more permanent, objective for which we are aiming. This reinforces the need for a careful reexamination of how our treatment units are going forward and the results coming from them. We cannot be too proud of them. We are grateful for what has been done, but we know their limitations.

We have been justly proud that we appear to have avoided the worst of the evils of black market in some of the more serious drugs. But are we paying too high a price for that? Are we establishing people on drugs, and happy to remain on drugs, without an incentive to drive them to take control of themselves more effectively, for fear that, if we do not maintain their position and an adequate dose, we might create this new black market? Are our fears fully justified? None of us can be sure. We have the dreadful warning of the position in America. We certainly do not want to copy their example. But have we gone too far in this respect? Should we not do something more to try to tip the balance in favour of the kind of incentive for self-discipline that I feel we need?

I am one of those who are very happy that the Bill has been introduced now and there is time to examine the problems with which we are very much concerned, and to which no one pretends he has a complete answer. We hope that the coming Parliamentary Recess will give us time to re-examine rather more fully some of the problems which are emerging, and from that point of view I wish the Bill well.

6.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

I apologise for thrusting myself on the House so soon after making my maiden speech last week. I would not normally have done so but, like the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), I am a member of the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence. As such I have had a fairly close look at the background to the Bill and there are one or two points that I should like to make about it.

First, I join the hon. Member for South Shields in paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler) on his excellent maiden speech, which seemed to me to contain a high degree of lucidity and knowledge. I do not think that somebody as new as I am is the best person to pay tribute to a maiden speaker, but my hon. Friend's speech was very impressive in its way.

I shall not follow the hon. Member for South Shields in discussing rehabilitation, a subject about which he knows a good deal. I should like, instead, to pick up one or two of the points which have come before the Advisory Committee during the last year or two.

Like everybody else, I broadly support the Bill. It seems to me that it offers real hope in tackling the grave problem which is embodied in the whole question of drugs. There are, however, one or two specific points on which I have, perhaps not reservations, but at least questions which I think it is desirable to consider during the Summer Recess and when the Bill goes to Committee.

The first is really a humdrum point. I wonder whether it is wise to have both an Advisory Committee and a separate Expert Committee. It seems to me that an Advisory Committee on this topic must, inevitably, contain a fairly large number of highly expert people, and it is a fact that this whole topic is becoming more and more technical all the time. I ask therefore whether it makes sense to have both bodies, and whether we could not do it with one of them, an Advisory Committee, assisted if necessary by an expert sub-committee? The whole business of the Expert Committee reporting to the Advisory Committee, and then the Advisory Committee reporting to the Secretaries of State, seems a little elaborate. I know that the process can be short-circuited, when there is an urgent need to deal with a problem, and I hope that the Minister will consider whether we are not risking having one committee too many.

I turn, now, to a more important point. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford, I hope that the House will consider carefully the proposal to distinguish between possession and supply. I fully understand the desire to make it possible to punish the supplier of drugs more severely, but I am not yet persuaded that the Cannabis Sub-Committee was wrong when we argued that it is often impossible to distinguish between the two. A great deal of so-called supply is done very much on an amicable and sharing basis, rather than as an organised act of selling, and I think that the courts are liable to get into a terrible tangle in many cases if they are called upon to draw a distinction between the two. I suspect that it would make much more sense to let the judiciary decide. When a case comes before the judges they are able to judge when there is a really serious seller who should be given a heavy sentence, as opposed to the person who passes cannabis to a friend without any real desire for gain.

My second point is that I am little concerned about whether there is not a risk at times of introducing too much control into this field as a whole. I know that it is desperately serious problem, and that in many respects it is a problem which will be tackled only by controls—we cannot leave it to any other mechanism—but when we introduce new controls of any kind we should always ask ourselves whether they are absolutely necessary, and whether they may not have harmful consequences.

When I read through the Bill it gave me something of a shock to gain the impression that if my wife gave me a codeine she would be liable on indictment to 14 years' imprisonment, or a fine, or both. I investigated this more closely and found that codeine does not mean a codeine tablet, which is merely a codeine compound.

There is, however, a point here, and it was made by the hon. Member for Norwich, South when he said that people who supply cough mixture are apparently liable to heavy penalties. I am sure that this difficult barbiturates issue which is now being looked at by the Advisory Committee will bring this point before us in a serious way. To my mind, in trying to stamp out an evil we may sometimes run the risk of making life tougher for people who benefit and find relief from some of these drugs. This is soluble problem, but I hope it will be looked at carefully and that we shall not try to stamp too heavily on the doctors' right to prescribe. I know that they have abused this in many instances but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford said, this is a very important freedom which must be upheld.

I propose now to say something about the law and practice of stop and search. The Clauses in the Bill on this topic correspond entirely with the report of the sub-committee on this subject, which was chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. I signed that report, and I feel that the Bill is right to allow the police the power to stop and search on reasonable grounds. My reason for supporting this proposal is that if there is a law it is essential that it is able to be enforced, and I do not think there is any chance of enforcing the law on cannabis unless the police are able to stop and search people. I do not think that the minority proposal in the Report that search should only follow an arrest would serve any useful purpose, but I hope that if the Bill and this Clause go through, as I believe they should, the Home Secretary will do what he can to encourage the police to observe the subcommittee's recommendations on police practice.

I should like to refer to one or two of those recommendations. The first is the recommendation that dress and hair style should not by themselves be regarded as reasonable grounds to stop and search. It is unlikely that the police have often picked on people simply because they have long hair, or wear peculiar clothes, but there is a belief that the police do that, and I hope that the Home Secretary will do what he can to make sure that the police never use that by itself as a simple ground for arrest.

I hope, too, that the proposal that powers of arrest and search should be subject to the objective test of reasonableness and challengeability in the civil courts will be implemented. This again seems an important part of preserving the balance between liberty and control which lies at the heart of this issue. When the police make a stop or search, they should always be required to state that they are looking for drugs. In other words, they should state the ground on which they are making the stop. This is very largely police practice at the moment, but one hopes that the Home Secretary and leading police officers will do all they can to uphold it.

I believe, too, that the sub-committee was right to comment on the desirability of providing a leaflet setting out the legal rights of suspects when they are taken to police stations. Lastly, it is right that the police should defer making any charge of unlawful possession until the substances in question have been analysed. This is the practice in many parts of the country, but not everywhere.

It is also right that there should be priority in analysing substances found on people. Every step should be taken to analyse substances quickly when bail is not given to people involved. In other words, it is not tolerable to have people hanging around for a long time in custody waiting for an analysis of the substance to be made.

Photo of Mr Eric Ogden Mr Eric Ogden , Liverpool, West Derby

The hon. Member is available for interruption, having made his maiden speech. He has finally arrived. Is he advocating—given the precautions of restriction and the power to stop and search—that the police should have power to make random stops and searches and requests to accompany them to police stations, without arrest? Is that what he is advocating?

Photo of Mr Timothy Raison Mr Timothy Raison , Aylesbury

Not random stops. Stops should be made only when the police have reasonable grounds for doing so. But the police should be able to stop and search, rather than have to arrest people formally.

My essential point follows from that question. There has been some suspicion that the police have been making random searches. On the sub-committee we had very slender evidence that this was happening. I am not sure that we had any concrete evidence at all. Nevertheless, there is a feeling around that the police occasionally make random searches, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will do all he can to make sure that this does not happen. In a sense, the justification for not introducing the qualifications that were desired by the minority of the members of the sub-committee lies in making sure that police practice is up to the highest standard.

My last point concerns health education. We would all agree that it is very important to have effective education on this topic. I do not believe that anything can be done in terms of adding Clauses to the Bill. We have a Health Education Council, whose job it is to cope with these matters. It is unfortunate that it has taken a long time to bring this council into being, owing to a number of unlucky circumstances, but the council is now in being, and I hope that it will be allowed to get on with the job. We do not need new legislation to cover that subject.

I believe that the Bill should command support. It evidently does so. We need to look at its details carefully, but I am sure that it will do the country a lot of good when it is enacted.

6.52 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

We have heard some admirable maiden speeches today, and an admirable near-maiden speech. I am sure that the whole House was as pleased to hear the hon. Member's second effort as it was to hear his first. It was an interesting speech.

I want to deal with one drug only—cannabis. I do so because the Home Secretary did so with charming modesty and lack of certainty. In the same way. I wish to put my views as much as can in the interrogative, but I am doubtful whether cannabis has not passed the point of no return—whether it is not something with which we now have to live. It is now in too general use. It is present in too great a quantity, and it is too easy to make.

That is the difference between cannabis and the barbiturates and amphetamines. Basically, the source of barbiturates and amphetamines is over-prescription. They are quite complicated to make. They are made by manufacturers and are supplied in medicines. Such drugs may be difficult to control, but perhaps they can be controlled. But something that is as easy to produce, as general in its use, as available and as cheap as cannabis, is another matter, and I very much doubt whether it can be controlled.

We have experience of two other drugs—alcohol and tobacco. Great efforts were made to control both those. It was not only the Americans who tried prohibition. In the case of tobacco we had the efforts of James I. The Czar of Russia went somewhat further and decreed that all people caught smoking should have their noses slit. The Porte, in Turkey, went even further, and decreed that the pushers of the dangerous drug, tobacco, should be sewn in a leather bag and thrown into the Bosphorus. But with none of those methods, anywhere in the world, was success achieved. I fear that in England, now, as in many other parts of the world for generations, cannabis has reached the point at which abolition will prove a futile exercise.

This is so because, on the whole, it is an indulgence of youth—youth that is challenging the standards of the older generation. Youth has a right to challenge us; we have not made too good a job of things. It is not a very inspiring society in which we live. We have just got through an election in which, as far as I am aware, no ideal or principle impinged, and in which I do not think that anybody seriously believed anything that we politicians were saying. It was rather a humiliating election.

That is the kind of society which the young, in a high degree, are rejecting today. They say, "We do not like your standards. We do not think much of them. We believe in a less acquisitive society—a society that is gentler and that associates more quietly." They compare their drug with ours and say, "Take your tobacco. It is dirty, unlike ours. It is habit-forming, unlike ours. It is a drug very often taken alone, unlike ours, which is taken socially." They also look at those of us who get our lift and our level of inebriation through alcohol and they say, "Here is something that is very much worse. You may be able to get drunk on pot. You may over-indulge in it. You can equally over-indulge in alcohol, and if you do the results are a good deal worse. "Pot" will not give you cirrhosis of the liver. Pot will not give you the D.T.s". When we find that kind of comparison being made—where we find prohibition not only being ineffective but awfully difficult to make sense of—it is inviting trouble simply to say, "No".

What is the case against cannabis? It is not a drug of addiction. It is not a drug that reduces efficiency, taken in moderation. As far as I can make out, it is not a drug that produces lung cancer or anything like that, taken in moderation. Of course, taken in excess it can have bad effects, but not such bad effects as alcohol has. The case against it is basically that it leads to something else. It is said that all people who go in for the serious hard drugs—heroin and so on—probably started on cannabis. This may or may not be so, but a tremendous lot of people who began on cannabis do not go on to hard drugs—

It being Seven o'clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 7 (Time for taking Private Business), further Proceeding stood postponed.